The city of Kolkata (spelt Calcutta till recently) is the capital of the eastern Indian state of West Bengal. It was one of the great cities of Asia, a leading port of British India established by the East India Company. An agent of the Company by the name of Job Charnock (1630-1693) persuaded it to acquire the village of Sutanuti around 1690. This would mark the rise of the city proper, an amalgamation of the hamlets of Sutanuti, Kalikata and Gobindapur to begin with, now a sprawling metropolis occupying more than 1,800 square kilometers that is home to 14 million people from all over the subcontinent. Kolkata, nicknamed the ‘City of Joy’ had many firsts (or near-firsts) to its name.
It was not only a commercial entrepot but also a city rich in culture and tradition. The British gave it pride of place, leaving behind an impressive collection of monuments and heritage sites – Fort William (completed in 1702), The Asiatic Society (1784), Imperial Museum at Calcutta (1814), Calcutta Public Library (1836), Agri Horticultural Society of India (1820), St. Paul’s Cathedral (1847), Geological Survey of India (1851), Howrah Station (1854) and Victoria Memorial (1921), to name a few. These, unlike the great palaces and tombs of the Indian princes, bore the stamp of British administration and modern urban planning. Among them is the Kolkata General Post Office (GPO), one of the oldest post offices in South Asia.
On October 2, 2018, the Kolkata GPO completed 150 years of its existence. Its construction began in 1864 and was completed in 1868, at an expense of Rs. 630,510. Designed by Walter B. Grenville, the iconic post office with its massive dome and Corinthian pillars turned into a major landmark of the city. Today, it towers over Netaji Subhas Road (earlier Clive Road), a major thoroughfare of Central Kolkata in BBD Bagh (the administrative centre and central business district of the metropolis). The anniversary has been marked by a week-long celebration involving an exhibition, a heritage walk and the release of a coffee table book.
Image Attribution: The image above, sourced from Wikimedia Commons, is a photograph of the Kolkata GPO dating back to 1875.
- ‘You’ve got mail: Kolkata GPO celebrates 150 years’, The Hindu (by Shiv Sahay Singh, dated October 2, 2018)
- Kolkata City Tours